March electoral roundup

Time for a quick review of recent electoral news around the world.

Western Australia

Counting has wrapped up for the lower house in the Western Australian state election, and it’s every bit as one-sided as it looked a week ago. Labor won the last doubtful seat, Churchlands, by about three hundred votes, giving it a total of 53 seats (up 12 from its 2017 result) as against four Nationals (down one) and two Liberals (down eleven). National Party leader Mia Davies will become Leader of the Opposition, even though her party placed fourth with just 4.0% of the vote.

Labor has about 60% of the primary vote and 68% two-party-preferred, a swing of between 12 and 13%. It’s believed to be the biggest victory won anywhere in Australia since the inception of the two-party system more than a century ago. An awesome lesson for parties that flirt with Covid-denialism.

The Legislative Council is not yet finalised, but Labor will also have a clear majority there, with a minimum of 22 of the 36 seats. (You can follow Kevin Bonham’s analysis of the count.) Whether it will use that majority to reform the Council’s outrageous malapportionment remains to be seen.


The Netherlands has a democratic electoral system, so its results don’t look anything like as lopsided, but in its way last Wednesday’s election was just as decisive as Western Australia’s.

The right-liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) held on to first place with 21.9% of the vote (up 0.7%) and 35 of the 150 seats (up two). Its coalition partner, the left-liberals of D66, came second with 15.0% (up 2.4%) and 23 seats (up four). They will clearly form the core of the new government, with VVD leader Mark Rutte set to return as prime minister.

The third main governing party, the Christian Democrats, didn’t do so well, with 10.0% (down 2.9%) and 15 seats (down four). Those three are therefore still three seats short of a majority between them; they may again team up with the Christian Union (unchanged on five seats), or take in the Greens instead. The latter declined an offer to join the government last time, but having lost ground badly (down 4.0% and six seats to 5.1% and eight seats) they may now be more tractable. Volt, a pro-European party that debuted with 2.4% and three seats, would be another option.

The far right gained ground in aggregate, winning 18.2% (up 3.4%) and 28 seats (up six), but its support is more fractured, now spread across three parties: the biggest of them, Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom, lost 2.2% and three of its 20 seats. The main far-left party, the Socialists, was also down, losing 3.1% to finish on 6.0% and nine seats (down five). But the centre-left failed to benefit, remaining steady on 5.7% and nine seats.


A few months ago I reported on a patently unfair presidential election in Tanzania, in which incumbent John Magufuli was declared the winner with 84.4% of the vote. Opposition protests failed to overturn the result.

Death, however, has accomplished what the opposition could not. When he vanished from public view for two weeks, rumors circulated that Magufuli, a Covid-denier, had succumbed to the virus. Last Monday, according to the BBC, “police said they had arrested four people on suspicion of spreading rumours on social media that the president was ill.” But on Wednesday it was admitted that he had in fact died, officially of heart failure.

Vice-president Samia Suluhu Hassan has taken over as president, and sounded a moderate and conciliatory note. She is the country’s first female president, and is also from its Muslim minority. Although she is a protegé of Magufuli, she is expected to quickly reverse some of his policies, especially his refusal to take the pandemic seriously – a refusal that may not have been unconnected with his death.


Also in Africa, the Republic of the Congo (sometimes known as Congo-Brazzaville, to distinguish it from the larger Democratic Republic of Congo) voted in a presidential election yesterday, and therefore makes its first appearance in this blog.

Covid-19 was an issue there as well, with the main opposition candidate, Guy-Brice Kolélas, admitted to hospital last week with the virus and flown to France for treatment. But it’s unlikely that his presence or absence would make a lot of difference; incumbent president Denis Sassou-Nguesso has been in power for all but six of the last 42 years, and there’s no indication that he is planning to relax his grip on the country.

At the last election, in 2016, Sassou-Nguesso was credited with 60.2% of the vote; Kolélas had 15.0% and independent Jean-Marie-Michel Mokoko 13.7%. No results have appeared so far, but the fact that (like last time) the government shut down internet access for the day, supposedly to prevent the unauthorised publication of results, is probably not a good sign.

Coming up

Israel goes to the polls tomorrow night, for its fourth election in two years – we’ll have a look at that tomorrow. The next big election is in Bulgaria, at the end of next week; several other countries vote later in April, of which the most important is probably Peru on the 11th.


3 thoughts on “March electoral roundup

  1. The Dutch socialists “far left”? I thought they were one of the object lessons in Pasokification. Or is this a different party to the one I’m thinking of?

    Also, do you have any thoughts on why WA Labor might be reluctant to fix malapportionment? I get that they are cautious in general, but it seems ridiculous to pass up an opportunity to do something that’s both right and advantageous.


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